“As a first-gen student, I didn't have that many people in my circle who were working professionals or could give me guidance. Braven gave me access to people that really wanted to help.”
Janet Escobar is a first-generation college graduate from San José State University. She connected with nonprofit Braven and their Accelerator Course in Spring 2019 and participated in their Professional Mentor program in Summer 2020.
Braven empowers promising college students with the skills, networks, experiences, and confidence necessary to transition from college to strong first jobs. To date, Braven has worked with 5,100 college students nationally. Fellows are persisting in college and achieving exciting levels of strong opportunity attainment.
Janet is the author of her book: The Latina Trailblazer: Inspiring Stories From Latinas Who Overcame Adversity and Forged a New Path
Janet talked to us about her transformative journey with Braven.
Tell us about how you arrived at Braven.
Braven was the gift that kept on giving! When a Braven representative walked into my strategic analysis class and started talking about the benefits of the program, I knew it was going to be the place where I would face my limiting beliefs and fears. I was afraid of public speaking (I went as far as dropping classes if oral presentations were mandatory), extremely shy, and I was intimidated by the tech industry because I felt like I didn’t belong.
On the first day that I walked into the class, I knew I had made the right decision. As I sat with my hands sweaty from all the anxiety, I looked around and saw ambitious students who also wanted to better themselves; apart from the collaborative environment, there was a mentor at each table taking time out of their day to help us improve our professional skills.
That semester, I faced my fears and lived by the quote, “only when you are willing to become comfortable with being uncomfortable can change and growth takes place. Value the process of self-discovery by learning new things and getting out of your comfort zone”.
How did Braven help you with your career?
I graduated in December of 2019 without a job in my field and three months later the pandemic hit. I say that Braven is the gift that keeps on giving because when I felt hopeless, I turned to Braven for help and they immediately paired me with a professional mentor to help me land a job.
The professional mentor I was paired with helped me see my value. He knew my background and said something that changed how I viewed what I was capable of. He said that skills and understanding corporate jargon could all be taught, but what I had as a first-generation American was grit and a strong desire to learn and grow; those invaluable characteristics were my superpower. He helped me learn how to sell my skills and see the value in telling my story.
The Braven mentorship program was an integral part of my career and I’m now a Braven mentor myself!
What does opportunity mean to you?
Opportunities can make the biggest difference in someone’s life. I read in the book How Successful People Grow by John C. Maxwell that Preparation (Growth) + Attitude + Opportunity + Action (doing something about it) = Luck.
I’ve seen people in my community work hard, constantly overcome obstacles, and prepare in every way; however, without opportunities, preparation can only get you so far. Opportunity means the world to me because without all the opportunities I’ve gotten from people who believed in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We need more opportunities to be given to those who don’t have connections or a large network and who are in low-income communities so they can thrive.
What has been your greatest success?
There are so many goals I want to achieve, but so far, my greatest success has been writing my first book! As a child, I would read for hours and was the weirdo who traded recess for library time. Reading and writing are a core part of my identity and becoming a published author has been a lifelong dream of mine, so bringing The Latina Trailblazer to life has been my greatest success.
My book is filled with stories of ambitious first-generation American Latinas who overcame adversity and are breaking barriers to uplift others.
When I get messages from strangers who have read it and said they felt less alone, thanked me for writing it, or inspired them to write their own book, it makes me beyond happy!
What's your message to other young people who are facing similar situations as you have?
Be bold. The best conversations and opportunities have happened because I simply asked. If you’re not bold enough to ask for what you want, you can’t expect to get it.
Be open. When you don’t know what career path to take, it can feel overwhelming, and you might feel lost. Be open to different experiences by starting projects, attending career fairs, researching, and having an open mind.
Be willing to fail. Failure is a part of life. Cry, let yourself be sad, but never stay in that energy. Analyze what you could've done better and do it again or pivot.
What is your hope for the future?
My hope for the future is that children from low-income communities gain the knowledge, opportunity, and confidence to know that they can positively impact their future. We need people from BIPOC communities to be a part of building the future through STEM fields and positions where big decisions are being made. Their empathy, resilience, and experience are invaluable assets that are necessary to build a future where there is equal opportunity.
To learn more about Braven visit: https://bebraven.org/